Thursday 29 October 2015

Cole Swensen's Landscapes on a Train (Nightboat Books, 2015)

Some favourite passages from Swensen's new book. I so look forward to her reading tonight at Burdall's Yard in Bath--it begins at 8 p.m.--join us!

Light. All accident. Across a rolling green, soft in animals.


Stream down sun in little coins.


A church too big for its hill. And cows easing down the slope. Slows its calm, and
More little sun goes on among selves.


Train across open land opens night. (A train lands all night across an open field.)


        Tree with light painted on. Then tree with points of dark which
Are birds or fruit that build slowly up into a night.


As the eye strikes a far thing, a
Small thing, a thing at this distance becomes distance alive all alone.


                                                                                                  Evening results
In a motion of sorts, a sort of splintering air.


                  Mistletoe crowding the emptiness of the empty branches
Of emptied trees.


              Making the water walk over the meadow like a line of bare
Poplars walks over a field.


The sun is a thrush, thrust up against, is falling in sheets, it falls in and sees....


You slide the screens to change the world.


                                                                         Season extant, season
Alarmed. The surface of water: a matter of light.


Birds toward the sea, a sea of them. 


The lights of a landing plane the streams of lights lining a road of a town the lights
Of a single light of a farm. Everything cannot be light, a light, we pass through
Miles of dark.


Down. To a sound, which has no shore.


Rain rains down upon rain.


Piles of leaves in the live sky burning the piles of flames into light dying in the sun.


                          The man across from me slightly shakes. He thinks
It's his hands. He shakes, and then he shakes them.


                                                                         Raw, strong roads that
Sweep the wind.

I found the easiest way to purchase Landscapes on a Train in the UK was to purchase it from Abe Books.

Monday 26 October 2015

Forrest Gander's Eye Against Eye (New Directions, 2005)

Here are some of my favourite passages from this collection by Forrest Gander. I've been catching up with his work in preparation for his reading at Burdall's Yard in Bath on Thursday, 26 November, about which there are more details here.

At sunset the surface of the wall gleams gold gleaming

and seems from even a short distance a smooth

impenetrable force swelling forward to meet the light


                 The fragility of presence. A bird

perched at the tip of a branch. Singing, we say.

from "Burning Towers, Standing Wall"

Half-lidded days of early winter.


He sees the woman's face contract at the approach of other futures than the one for which her face was prepared.


As if they were waiting. As if inside experience, bright with meaning, there were another experience pendant, unnameable.

from "Ligature"

a sobering enthusiasm for the unmoored


you dance with your hips and feet while I'm all torso

there's a cure for that


veracity confronts us

ravens warning awe awe


should you crack and spill the yolk of yourself
you will find in me a stay

from "Present Tense"

In the riffle of leafy detail, we sense the respiration of the forest.

from "River and Trees"

Meanwhile, saturated by the density

of light, the tower and trees blend

into a compassion

                               where all the sight lines meet.  

end of "The Broken Tower"

and do we invent this privacy

the privilege to brim with each other


divorcing you from me

from the rhythm of our tangency

our breaking into my and my


from an infinite distance
I recall you

your presence

blows in, a red petal....


you can't tell

what is happening

until it moves on and is gone

as someone and someone's grief

careen around a corner

from "Mission Thief"
(my favourite poem in the collection, highly rcommended)

His muteness an onomatopoeia of the rising moon.

end of "Ligature 4"

You can best find and purchase Eye Against Eye in the UK from Abe Books.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Cole Swensen's The Glass Age (Alice James Books, 2007), second selection

Here are some favourite passages from the book's second and third sections (of three). I find it a difficult work to excerpt from, as some of its felicity comes from longer threads and their concatenous developments.

from "The Glass Act":

        He said open

and everything he painted then opened
a woman sewing
enters in infinite gradations, the white
that never gets there
               who, alone in a house with light,
built his house entirely of doors.



has slipped, is now offset, and now the street and the windows comprise a single living thing, which makes it come out in color.


Bonnard had a double fixation: saturated color and utter transparency. Not so much opposites as an immanent collision of the present until it's tangible. Cracked open to reveal at its center, a verb.


from the final section, "Glazier, Glazier":

When I was a child, I had a glass kite. Said the child staring out the window of the speeding train.


While in France, they built whole mansions of glass;
called orangerie or serres or vies, a conservatory can be

made, paned, claimed

I grew a lemon from a forest of thieves; I grieve

still for the infinitesimal

difference between
what you can see and what you cannot see


Geometry with imprecision at its heart
as the circle always veers in its infinity. Necessity.


Every window implies a blind spot--it's the air, the percentage of air in every scene; the portion that can't be seen lying over everything. The unveiled veil.


One of Bonnard's last paintings is titled The Small Window and shows, through an open window that frames three sides of the painting, another window, red, and at a distance, a suggestion of a building or maybe by now a window alone, a thriving shore.

In the UK, Cole Swensen's books are most easily found through Abe Books

Monday 19 October 2015

Cole Swensen's The Glass Age (Alice James Books, 2007), first selection

Those in the Bath area will want to see Cole Swensen when she reads on the Bath Spa University poetry series at Burdall's Yard on Thursday, 29 October at 8 p.m.; tickets are free for students and only £3 for the public at, and the venue urges pre-booking so as to avoid disappointment and to help them with staffing.

Here are some favourite passages from the first section, The Open Window (passages from the latter two sections will follow in a separate post):

Sand and ash                    (the ocean like glass
                                            we say of a day when nothing moves)
further a natural feeling for light.

* reach

is not necessarily to touch....


So often in Bonnard's work, the window is where we actually live, a vivid liminality poised on the sill, propped against the frame, he turns and speaks for the first time that day.


Photography replaced the river, which, due to unexpected complications, resulted in the Great Age of the Train.


The earliest movie was a window.


...diffusing the focus into a plane that hums, a homogenous intensity extending anarchically....


It's an equivalent world, one in which each element serves as a clinamen to trip the homogeneity into precipitating specifics so numerous that they can construct a rolling chaos quite able to hurtle through darkness without a hitch.


...a floodplain on which skates, fleet apothecary, the glance.


Whatever enters through a window is a ghost; everything else is just visiting--transfixed witness to the instant of the threshold, the site of the slip, the shift; we look up.

In the UK, Cole Swensen's books are most easily found through Abe Books

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Linda Lamus's A Crater the Size of Calcutta (Mulfran, 2015), second selection

Hell’s Angels

A nurse shows me photos of a biker party.
Her boyfriend stands with others, part-clad
in leathers, cocks dangling in pints of lager.

Other nurses begin circling, moving in.
They cluster on my bed, hyena cackles
attracting more.  Their pink claws snatch
at the photos; they salivate, white teeth snapping.

The Great Suit stalks through the ward followed
by whirling white coats.
Holiday snaps?    it’s bored, rhetorical.
The hyenas collapse laughing.  One rolls onto
my cotton savannah

and clutches her sides.
Another slides, hysterical,

to the blood-spotted floor.

You can purchase a copy by emailing the publisher at leona at mulfran dot co dot uk with a shipping address, and she will send the book with an invoice for £9 (thus no charge for shipping).

Sunday 11 October 2015

Linda Lamus's A Crater the Size of Calcutta (Mulfran Press, 2015), first selection

Linda Lamus's book is out at last, and I'm so pleased. As I think individual poems may work to show the book's strengths more than passages, I'll post several on my blog over the next week. 

Island of the Pelicans (La Isla de los Alcatraces)

Despite the Rule of Silence, you hear whispers;
the sometime clank of ball and chain,
echoes in the mess hall and exercise yard.

I swear they’re fingering my mind
on the cold side, where Bay winds slice the sun.
I’m edging down the steep concrete path

until my leg twists to a halt.  Suddenly, snug
as a bullet hole in the wall beside Solitary,
there’s one perfect hummingbird hovering,

his bill drawing nectar from scarlet monkey flowers.
Our heads are in the clouds, the tiny bird and me,
the cross-Bay winds.  I breathe in salt and flowers,

stand watching so close I feel his wings beat
air currents, disturb my hair.  I could touch
the quivering magenta breast.  His eyes hold

every secret of The Rock.

You can purchase a copy by emailing the publisher at leona at mulfran dot co dot uk with a shipping address, and she will send the book with an invoice for £9 (thus no charge for shipping). If you'd like to know a little more about Linda, there is a tribute page here

Friday 9 October 2015

Daniel Sluman's the terrible (Nine Arches, 2015)

I was reading this book to provide a blurb and couldn't help underlining favourite passages--a good sign, to be sure. Here they are:

                                     their heads
full of yes      each night   a heaved dice

& we're driving further through it each year


                                              the faces

from our life   passing   like boarded-up doors

from "1991-2006"

the smell of motor oil & sawdust
& the moon threaded through

opening stanza of "confession"

                             & we're here again
passing the whiskey that started the fire
in our throats    watching the town
lights wash slowly   into darkness

end of "matches"

morning-breakers    rubbing

their hands   & checking the mirror
each with their own nightmare

tensed like a razor over
the skin of another morning

facing the exhaustion
of ever-thickening snow

second half of "winter"

I'll keep this lightning trapped in my hip
my strange weather    the dent I sank into
will rise from the sofa in a mist
of cologne & possibilities

end of "doppelganger"

                        where we sit & empty
glass after glass into the night   your son asleep
the walls creeping closer to the ghostly down
on his neck


the roof dreaming its only dream
of the weight of rain

from "the cottage"

tonight is a rope we can burn & burn

opening line of "affair"

              she tried to shake the terrible
from me    until the bed glittered like the sea

from "the terrible"

the gaping o of you

from "L O V E"

in dreams

I have two legs   my mother stays
& childhood is a single house


with a gin in hand I drink
myself to perfection each night

rather obviously, from "in dreams"

glittering with laughter in the sheets beside you

from "phantom"